A German Soul: Devotional Music from 17th-century Hamburg / Ensemble Méridien


Subtitled Devotional Music from 17th-century Hamburg, A German Soul from Brilliant Classics is a varied program of instrumental, solo vocal and organ pieces dating, for the most part, from the early Baroque. The eight composers represented were all active in northern Germany at some point or another in their careers. Made in 2012, the recordings are all new and the audio engineering is of the extremely high standard we've come to expect of Brilliant Classics' new recordings.

Written at a time when the art of organ building and technical aspects of organ performance had reached an exceptional high point, the organ preludes and fantasies here form a generous portion of the program. There are works by Heinrich Scheidemann (c.1595-1663), Michael Praetorius (1571-1621), Franz Tunder (1614-1667) and Matthias Weckmann (c.1616-1674). Generally contemplative and free-flowing in nature, these pieces demonstrate an extensive array of performance techniques and practices of the time such as novel registrations, chromaticising of melodic lines, echo effects, imitation and pedal techniques. Organist Juan de la Rubia performs at the magnificent Organ of the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de l'Alcora in Spain.

The two instrumental pieces are Sonata seconda a due by Johann Rosenmüller (1619-1684) and the Trio Sonata BWV 527 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), which incidentally is the most recent composition on the program. The period instrument group, Ensemble Méridien, play in strict accordance with accepted historical principles. You can hear them perform the last movement of Bach's trio sonata in the first of two samples from the album made available in the right sidebar. There are further album samples in the video below, supplied by Brilliant Classics.

The third leg of the program is made up of three brief cantatas for soprano, two violins and basso continuo by Johann Rosenmüller, Johann Philipp Krieger (1649-1725) and Dieterich Buxtehude (c.1637-1707). These works come from a time when the sacred cantata, based upon Italian secular models, was coming of its own in Germany. Thinly textured with only a few instrumental lines and one vocal part, the early Baroque cantata bears little resemblance to the many grand cantatas of the late Baroque, although composers did continue to write solo cantatas of a similar makeup. Laia Frigolé is the soprano soloist for each vocal number on the program. You can hear her singing a cantata by Dieterich Buxtehude in the second of two album excerpts in the right sidebar.

In all, this is a beautifully executed project that will appeal to any listener interested in exploring vocal, instrumental and organ rarities of the early Baroque.

A German Soul - Praeambulum in D Major, WV. 33